Court rejects greens’ bid to force federal review of wind farm road 

Source: Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 29, 2015

A federal appeals court yesterday rejected a bid by environmentalists to force regulators to consider the impact of a wind farm’s road over federal lands in California on endangered species.

The Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife contended that the Bureau of Land Management was required to consult the Fish and Wildlife Service before granting a right of way to build a road near Tehachapi in California’s Sierra Nevada.

The road connects a 12,000-acre wind farm developed entirely on private land by North Sky River Energy LLC. It links the project to a state highway. Beneath the road are power and fiber-optic cables that connect the power generated from the farm to California’s grid.

Environmental groups argued at the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the BLM approval of the right of way should have triggered more substantive environmental review under the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

The three-judge 9th Circuit panel rejected those arguments in a 14-page opinion.

Judge Johnnie Rawlinson wrote that the wind farm itself “was not funded, authorized, or constructed by any federal agency,” and thus the environmental laws were not triggered.

“BLM was not required to consult on the direct effects of the Wind Project because the Wind Project did not constitute agency action,” she wrote. “The Wind Project was developed by a private company on private land.”

Rawlinson noted that BLM initially consulted FWS on possible effects of the road on the threatened desert tortoise and endangered California Condor. BLM ended those discussions when it learned that neither species was present in the road’s footprint.

Click here for the opinion.